The next few days went by in the same fashion as always. Oddly enough, the strange meeting in Jacob’s office never phased our usual daily routine. Things were, for the most part, back to normal in the big farmhouse. Jacob and I would eat cereal every morning, enjoy some time in the living room through most of the day, eat lunch, and then repeat.
But I couldn’t deny the lingering sensation that hung above us during our days like a rain cloud. Even if we went upon a normal day, that fateful meeting in Jacob’s office still left me apprehensive. Deep down I was aware that eventually something would bad would happen, meaning I would then have to step in and be the hero. The prophecy ate me up inside with dread, even if I tried to hide it for the sake of normalcy.
Finally, about 6 days after his cryptic message to me, I decided to ask Jacob about it. We were seated on the front porch of the house in the mid-afternoon. I was full from lunch and playing with a few Spiderman dolls while Jacob sat in another rocker. Cass sniffed lazily in the front yard, while a small breeze cascaded over the hills of wheat in the distance.
“Jacob?” I asked quietly.
“When I have to save this person, will you help me?”
I was turning and looking at him now, waiting for his answer. His face remained unreadable as he searched for an answer. His hesitation made gave me all the answer I needed.
“No, Corey.” He said softly.
I sniffed. “Why?”
His voice was still soft as he answered. It dropped a few octaves lower as he spoke again. “Because I won’t be around anymore.”
“Where will you be, then?”
Jacob didn’t answer, and I sensed that I might have asked too many questions. I turned away and went back to playing. I knew that I went into dangerous territory, and Jacob probably didn’t want to elaborate on the subject. But with such vague detail, how was I ever supposed to know whom I was meant to save? Without a detailed map, how was I going to find where I wanted to go? None of it really made sense.
With a new surge of bravery I turned back to Jacob to throw more questions at him. As I squared up to face him again, I stopped when my eyes finally looked upon Jacob. He didn’t look intimidating, nor was he shooting any warning look my way. But I knew that any interrogation I tried to throw at him would leave me empty handed. He would never cave, especially not to juvenile questions. I was, after all, a child of 7 years. What adult would ever succumb to a child’s strategic questioning? So I turned my attention back to my dolls and tried to set the issue off my mind, at least for a little while.
It wasn’t even two days later—while I was snuggled beneath the quilts of my bed—I felt myself being tugged from slumber by a hand on my shoulder. It shook me gently while a soft voice broke through my sleep-clouded mind.
“…Corey…Corey, wake up…”
I opened my eyes slightly and saw my mother staring back at me.
“What’s goin’ on?” I mumbled. I pulled a hand over my face to block out the sun from my eyes. It was early morning, earlier than I would normally wake up.
It was then that I noticed my mother’s eyes. They were bloodshot and sore, like she didn’t sleep much that night. There were ugly bags beneath them. Her lips were chapped and her hair was messy.
“Gather your things up.” She said in a rushed whisper. “We’re leaving.”
She didn’t give me any time to answer before leaving my side and beginning to pack up my belongings. She pulled my duffel out from beneath my bed and began to throw shirts from the top drawer into the open bag.
I should have known better than to ask questions about why we were leaving. It was normal for her to gather us up and escape in a huff. But my attachment to our new home was making this departure more painful than the others.
“Why? Why are we leaving?” I asked. I still hadn’t moved from my bed.
“Shut up. Just get your things. We have to go.”
With a painful shot of sadness running through my chest, I sat up slowly from my bed and climbed out of its heavenly comfort. I was about to change out of my pajamas when my mother grabbed my wrist.
“No, don’t worry about changing. Help me pack.” Her voice was short, as if she was aggravated. She quickly turned away from me again and continued stuffing my belongings into the duffel.
I watched as she disturbed all my prized items. Everything that I had strategically placed in my room only a few months before were being tossed back into the duffel. That childish pride I took in possessing my own room was being crushed in front of me. A surge of despair clamped over my heart. I couldn’t suppress the sob that built in my throat.
My mother swiveled to face me again, this time enraged. She grabbed my shoulders and forced me to look at her. “Stop it, Corey! Pack, right now.” Her voice was still a whisper but it sounded dangerous. I could only cry in response, tears now streaming down my face.
I did as I was told though. I started pulling the rest of my clothes from my dresser and packing them away, crying the entire time. I hated the thought of being on the move again. Hated it with every fiber of my being.
We packed in silence, only the sound of my quiet sobs filled the room. It seemed as if my mother was trying to make a quiet exit. I imagined the Boyfriend—or, now ex-Boyfriend—still sleeping in an alcohol induced coma in the next room.
Once the room was almost packed up, I grabbed the Mickey Mouse doll from its place on my bedside table. I clasped it within my small hands, remembering the combination to the safe was still tucked in its pocket. I double-checked the pocket and saw that the small piece of paper was still there. I carefully placed it into the duffel with the rest of my things, sniffing away the tears as I did.
My mother zipped the duffel hurriedly before grabbing my wrist and pulling me away from my room. I didn’t even get to look back at it once last time.
Her bag was in the hallway next to her old room. Silently, she handed me my duffel and took her own bag before we crept down the staircase. I thought the creaks of the floorboards would give us away, but nothing stirred in the house. We were making a clean getaway.
I still had tears in my eyes when she burst out the front door, my wrist still in my mother’s tight grasp. As we walked onto the porch, I looked to where I knew the rocking chair was sat, and to my surprise, Jacob was there. He was seated in his rocking chair, moving back and forth in the lazy motion he always had. Cass was stretched out by his side, watching us intently.
As my mother hurried towards the beat up Ford, my eyes met Jacob’s for the last time. Much to my dismay, they remained cold as usual. I was hoping for a valiant rescue. Maybe he would stop my mother, plead for her to stay, and confess his love for her. They would get married and he would be by new Dad. We’d live happily in the old farmhouse, where he would teach me how to be a real man.
But Jacob did nothing. He only watched me as my mother pulled me away from him forever. I heard the loud screech of the car door opening and my mother dropped my hand so she could throw the bags into the backseat. I kept my eyes on Jacob, who only swayed in his chair with an expressionless face. Still nothing.
“Get in the car.” My mother said flatly as she slid into the driver’s seat.
Feeling the tears form again, I moved into the passenger seat of the Ford and waited with baited breath. The car sprang to life after a few pathetic chugs and clunks. My mother pulled the Ford out of the yard and onto the gravel road, while my eyes remained on Jacob. The car moved slowly away from the farmhouse. I shifted in my seat to turn and watch, as the space grew larger between us. When I could no longer see it in the distance, I let the tears flow again, the violent sobs shaking me to the core.
Jacob had never moved from his chair.